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Did You Know…?

  • Texas has more surface fresh water (4,959 square miles) than any state except Alaska.
  • Its largest ranch, the King Ranch in Kingsville, is slightly bigger than Rhode Island.
  • Texas has the right to divide into five states.
  • The Comal, at 2.5 miles, is the shortest river in Texas.
  • During half the Civil War, Marshall, Texas, was the Missouri capital.

Bigger than life

Lone star, longhorns, the Alamo, 10-gallon hats, the oil business and the Dallas Cowboys — they’re all symbols of the second-largest U.S. state.  owever, there are other wrinkles in this fabric. San Antonio has the Alamo and south-of-the-border charm; Austin has a great university and country western music; Dallas and Houston are on stage as large, modern, commercial cities.

Significant parts of American history played out in Texas. Visitors have access to museums and monuments that document that past. From Sam Houston to Lyndon Johnson, its sons loom large.

Texas Tourism outlines seven key regions and hence allows us to discover this outsized state in smaller pieces. Those regions are:

  • Big Bend Country, in the far west. It encompasses El Paso and the Big Bend National Park, with its mountains and desert covering more than 800,000 acres along the Rio Grande.
  • The Gulf Coast, with 600 miles of shoreline plus barrier islands stretching from Galveston to South Padre Island. The area is noted for fishing, birding and water-based activities. It also includes Houston.
  • The Hill Country, an area of rolling hills and dude ranches — and wineries. The area encompasses the state capital, Austin, which is celebrated for its live music.
  • Panhandle Plains, in the northwest corner of Texas, a ranching area and home to Abilene and Amarillo.
  • Piney Woods, in the easternmost part of the state, noted for quaint historic towns, roses and four national forests.
  • Prairies and Lakes Region, home of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis. It is Fort Worth that offers the sense of the West and its history. The region also encompasses charming small towns, plus the Dinosaur Valley State Park.
  • South Texas Plains, gateway to Mexico. The region extends from San Antonio to the Rio Grande and bespeaks the Fiesta San Antonio, Tex-Mex food, Spanish missions and the Alamo.

Mostly, Texas is warm, calling itself a year-round destination, but summers can be uncomfortable. And, there is a hurricane season on the Gulf Coast, which falls in late summer/early fall. Locals suggest visiting in March or April, with April the best for seeing blooming wildflowers.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Hike or go rock climbing on the Enchanted Rock, a huge pink granite boulder called Texas’ Ayers Rock. It is 425 feet above ground, 1,825 feet above sea level, and it covers 640 acres. Enchanted Rock is a state park, too.
  • Humor yourself. Attend — even compete in — the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships, held each spring in Austin.
  • The style of humor is a little different at the annual Fire Ant Festival, which celebrates the fire ant each fall in Marshall. You will want to participate in events like ANTsmash dodgeball.
  • Camp and hike in Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the northern part of the state.
  • Rent a bicycle and take to the trails in Piney Woods.
  • Line up a couple of glasses of water on your table and order chili for lunch.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go tubing on the Medina River at Bandera, or take yourself down the river in a kayak or canoe. Bandera calls itself the cowboy capital of the world. It stages two rodeos a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
  • Stay at a dude ranch.
  • Listen to the local brand of country western music in Austin’s clubs and other venues.
  • Visit some of the darnedest museums. Examples are Houston’s National Museum of Funeral History and the Devil’s Rope Museum (barbed wire) in McLean. Or, how about the Cockroach Hall of Fame in Plano?
  • Follow the Wind Power Trail in Texas and Oklahoma. It highlights 23 sites, some working windmills or windmill farms, generating energy every day, and some windmill museums, such as the J.B. Buchanan Windmill Park in Spearman, Texas, and the Shattuck (Okla.) Windmill Museum and Park. Did you know U.S. wind resources are on a par with Saudi Arabia’s oil resources?
  • Plan to attend one of the really big rodeos, in Fort Worth, Houston or San Antonio. However, there are plenty more rodeos in the state, giving you choices just about any month of the year.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Walk the walk — the Riverwalk, that is, in San Antonio. It is a charming area with restaurants, clubs and hotels lining the San Antonio River.
  • Visit NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, which is open for tours.
  • Tour the LBJ Ranch, now a national park. Air-conditioned coaches will take you around the ranch. See the LBJ Boyhood Home in Johnson City, too.
  • See a 550-foot meteor crater in Odessa. This natural phenomenon is the result of a barrage of crashing meteors which smacked Earth 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.
  • Follow the wine trail in the Texas Hill Country region. Taste varieties at 16 wineries if you can stand for it (literally).
  • Eat barbecue in central Texas, where it was born. It is said some of the best is found at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Louie Mueller’s in Taylor and Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Texas Tourism at